By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) is outraged against what it described as the United State government’s attempts to blackmail the Philippines.
The US is standing against the petition of the Philippines to the World Trade Organization for the extension of the Quantitative Restriction (QR) on rice in retaliation over the issuance of Department of Agriculture (DA) AO 22, which provides technical requirements, such as proper labeling, in the packaging of frozen meat.
“The US’ opposition on our bid to extend the QRs on rice betrays US arrogance and underscores the need for the Philippines to withdraw from the WTO,” said KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos.
According to recent reports, the United States is opposing the Philippines’ petition for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to stop the continued entry of imported rice into the country. This was revealed to the media by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.
According to Alcala, the Barack Obama administration is blocking the Philippines’ petition to the WTO to extend the limit imposed on the entry of foreign rice into the domestic market. This, farmers groups like the KMP have time and again said, is a regulation that will protect Filipino farmers against the unfair competition leveled by sellers of cheap and subsidized foreign rice.
The US Department of Agriculture wants the DA to suspend the AO 22, arguing that the order has affected the trade of meat and poultry to the Philippines. If not, the US threatened to block the petition of the Philippines to extend the quantitative restrictions (QR) on rice imports.
The US said AO 22, which applies only to frozen meat and not fresh meat, is biased against meat imports. Based on reports, US meat and poultry exports to the Philippines exceeded $100 million in 2010, higher by some 40 to 50 percent.
The Aquino government is reportedly pushing for a three-year extension of the QR. It said that the move is to help protect and encourage Filipino farmers to increase their yield and allow the Philippines to one day become rice-sufficient or at the earliest by 2013. The current QR on rice, approved by WTO in 2006, is scheduled to end this June.
“Why is the US so afraid of AO 22? This means that the US considers even health safety precautions as a barrier to trade and their dumping activities,” Ramos said. “Instead of bringing it up in the negotiating table, the US has resorted into political arm-twisting and blackmail. This concretely shows that there is no room for negotiations in the WTO and exposes the undemocratic character of this US-dominated multi-lateral trade body.”
According to the KMP, the US’ move to block the country’s petition to extend the QR’s came in the wake of Filipino farmers’ clamor to increase the farm-gate price of palay (unhusked rice).
The KMP urged the DA and the National Food Authority (NFA) to increase the farm-gate prices of palay or unhusked rice to P20 ( $0.56) per kilo from the current NFA buying price of P17 ($0.40) per kilo.
“Given this show of shameless arrogance by the US, we demand that the DA and the NFA to use taxpayers’ money for the procurement of our local produce and immediately stop the importation of rice,” Ramos said.
Rice importation figures show an increasing volume of rice importation from 100,000 metric tons (MT) to more than 2 million MT of rice from 1984 to 1998. In 2007, the government increased its importation to 1.8 million MT. At the end of 2007, the country had an end stock of 2.17 million MT, but the government further boosted imports by 34.74 percent reaching 2.4 million MT in 2008. In 2010 the government ordered 2.45 million MT of rice.
“This increase in the volume of rice importation is way beyond the Philippines’ minimum access volume (MAV) of 350,000 metric tons under the WTO-Agreement on Agriculture and led to the massive flooding of imported rice in the country,” Ramos explained.